A divided world
Seventh Sunday of Easter: 16th May, 2010
Theological Student, on assignment at St Peter's, Eastern Hill
We live in a divided world.
We are divided against, and amongst each other. And we are divided within our very own selves.
We don't need to look any further than the Christian church to see this division. For all the talk of unity in the New Testament; that Christ's body is not divided, we see a church where there is division and conflict. This sad reality is the case within our own Anglican Communion, let alone the multiple divisions through denominational lines and that particularly painful division that many Anglo-Catholics feel between our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brothers and sister.
Yet we see in the gospel reading today that unity is the quality of the relationship that God desires with us. Christ desires a relationship of unity with his followers, and that this unity is to be the quality of the relationship that he wants amongst his followers.
There is something of the intimacy of the Triune relationship within God — between the Father and the Son — into which God invites us, through Christ.
Yet we see in this dynamic and self-giving unity within God's own inner life, as each of the persons of the Trinity abides, indeed, dwells within the others, their distinctiveness is not lost, the personhood is not lost, nor is it fused or absorbed into each other, but each person is maintained, in this relationship of unity.
This is the life of unity that Christ invites us into; an almost paradoxical relationship of unity where our own God-given personhood is not lost but is supported and maintained. And that abiding in this unity with God and each other, the church may be a means in which others are drawn to this relationship with God, and that we may be a voice proclaiming that God's invitation extends to the whole world.
Going back to the early chapters in the Book of Genesis, we are reminded that this relationship of unity has been God's intention for us all along.
God created human beings in his own image; according to his likeness. We were created to be in relationship and fellowship with God. We see clearly in the primordial stories surrounding Adam and Eve, that these too, are our own stories, that in our desire for independence and autonomy from God, we live divided from God, each other and ourselves.
This division is a problem, because its not what God intends for us. As a result of our broken relationships with God and each other, we cannot be truly ourselves ... we cannot live life to the fullness in this state, because we have been created for the purpose of relationship.
Our human predicament, this very inner conflict was confronted by St Paul, when he said in his letter to the Romans, 'I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.'
We cannot return to Eden. We cannot return to a state before the fall, to a primordial innocence. To do so would be akin to refusing to grow to adulthood and full maturity. To do so would negate our God's loving and saving action which has been extended to us. God's desire for unity with us has been enacted through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Christ has reconciled us to God, and continues to work for reconciliation in the world. Through Christ, the kingdom of God has decisively broken through into creation.
The place in which we find ourselves is an overlapping era. The kingdom of God has decisively broken through into creation. Yet the pain of division and alienation from the old era remains.
It is our call as the church to proclaim this message of reconciliation to our world which suffers from the pains of brokenness and division. To attempt to return to Eden would be to neglect God's call for us to be active and engaged in the world.
We, as human beings and as the church in the world, still experience the pain division and alienation. Yet amongst this division, this divided church has a special call. It is called to announce God's message of unity, and to be a way in which the world is brought into relationship with God.
Our role is to be agents of this good news, as we look for the consummation of the fullness of God's kingdom.
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St Peter's Eastern Hill, Melbourne Australia.